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Apr 1, 2014 5:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

CVS To File For Special Exception Targeting Bridgehampton Main Street Site

Apr 2, 2014 11:28 AM

A CVS Caremark official and the developer of a Main Street property in Bridgehampton confirmed on Tuesday that they plan to file a formal application with the Southampton Town Planning Board for a special exception permit that would allow a new store and pharmacy where Bridgehampton Beverage used to stand.

The statements come on the heels of speculation by the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee that the corporation might try to circumvent the zoning code, which limits a store on the site to 5,000 square feet, by simply dividing the planned two-story building into two separate corporate entities, each occupying 4,400 square feet. That scenario was first raised by the town’s chief building inspector, Michael Benincasa, when discussing the options for CVS to occupy both floors.

Despite trying to smooth concerns of CAC members and the community as a whole with two separate face-to-face meetings, CVS will face stiff opposition at the Planning Board stage, according to CAC Co-Chairwoman Nancy Walter-Yvertes.

CVS Caremark, following two years of negotiations, signed a 25-year lease last month with BNB Ventures IV, the owners of the vacant property at 2510 Montauk Highway, located just east of Starbucks at the corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. The contract calls for the construction of a building that would feature a 4,400-square-foot retail store on the ground floor and a 4,400-square-foot pharmacy on the second floor. The basement, also measuring 4,400 square feet, would serve as storage space.

In February, a building permit was issued to BNB Ventures for the shell of the building—an overall design that members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee supported—and Paul Kanavos, the real estate developer behind BNB Ventures, said construction could begin “in the near future.”

Mr. Benincasa confirmed last week that he had been working with CVS officials for weeks on an application for the combination pharmacy/retail store. He was working with CVS because their yet-to-be-filed application to occupy the whole building would require a special exception permit from the Planning Board. A pharmacy and retail store is a permitted use on the site at 5,000 square feet or less, but a special exception permit from the Planning Board is required for a project the size proposed by CVS.

According to designs provided to the CAC by David Berman, the regional director of real estate for CVS, a “non-prototypical CVS layout” is planned, with rear and front entrances, two floors, and a 26-square-foot stand-alone CVS sign outside. The plans also indicate that the project is “self-developed,” or otherwise coming from the CVS corporation itself, not someone trying to open a franchise. Several years ago, CVS attempted and failed to branch out in neighboring Sag Harbor, an effort that spurred a broad rewriting of the village’s zoning and building codes.

In 2011, designs for the Bridgehampton building on file with the town called for the structure to house between three and six tenants. The top floor was originally pitched to house three “affordably priced apartments,” according to CAC members, and the first floor was to be two or three small shops or seasonal boutiques. In all, six different uses were permitted.

None of those uses, however, called for a single tenant to occupy the entire building.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Berman and Mr. Kanavos met with invited members of the Bridgehampton community. Many of the about 20 people in attendance were CAC members, but the meeting was strictly a meeting of private citizens with the developers, both parties were quick to point out. The press was excluded from the meeting, which was held at the Hampton Library.

Mr. Kanavos said after the meeting that “the purpose was to provide accurate information to the community about the objectives of the developer and CVS. We listened to their concerns and did our best to alleviate them.”

Mr. Kanavos said definitively that they planned to apply for a special exception permit from the Planning Board.

“We will not and have no intention to separate the building into two tenancies under the CVS name,” he said. “We will not circumvent the intent of the special exception requirement.”

Mr. Berman declined to offer a timetable as to when the build-out plans, the technical term for plans to fill in the already approved shell, will be filed, as he characterized all talks with Mr. Benincasa as “very preliminary.”

Mr. Kanavos also said that while it is his right to construct the building as things currently stand, he and CVS are “prepared to sit with the CAC and community members to discuss landscaping, merchandising, lighting and signage as a way of addressing some of the concerns raised today.”

He characterized Tuesday’s two-hour meeting as constructive and transparent.

Wednesday morning, Ms. Walter-Yvertes held a differing view. “We are pleased that Mr. Kanavos and Mr. Berman are going to the Planning Board,” she wrote in an email. “We will have an opportunity to oppose them in that forum.”

Ms. Walter-Yvertes said the two developers denied in the meeting ever having considered Mr. Benincasa’s “two corporation fiction,” but otherwise didn’t go into detail about what was discussed.

Summarizing the meeting, she wrote: “It was a meeting of two opposing groups—one for and one against the proposal. And not noteworthy.”

On Tuesday afternoon, outside of the Hampton Library, Mr. Berman confirmed statements from Town Hall last week—that he hasn’t had discussions with anyone at the town level beyond Mr. Benincasa.

He went on to say that Mr. Benincasa’s role will likely have little to do with the CVS occupancy decision, as the ultimate decision is “up to the Planning Board.”

He said the discussion with CAC members, Mr. Benincasa and community members were all “part of the normal course of events” before filing an application with the Planning Board.

Before hearing the complaints of the CAC, Mr. Kanavos said last week that he was looking forward to Tuesday’s informal meeting to explain his point of view and expressed how many members of the community are in fact open to the CVS. He said he was willing to work with the vocal opposition, but that it was important to note that many will come out in support of the project.

“At the end of the day, I live in the community, I understand the concerns of the community and I care tremendously about the East End,” Mr. Kanavos, a Southampton resident, said last week.

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A good move by Mr. Kanavos and CVS.

Now for the follow-through.

The proof will be in the pudding.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 1, 14 6:37 PM
More accurately.... The proof is in the eating of the pudding....

I look forward to having a CVS nearby. It's a well run operation and provides affordable merchandise through the economy of scale.

The laws that have been passed to "protect" us from large corporations are eliteist in nature creating bespoke communities that only the wealthy can afford to live in. It's one of the reasons that we now have the east bound trade parade on 27.
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Apr 1, 14 8:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
Oh please. Nice attempt at instigating class warfare. The laws and ordinances have kept our community from turning into Queens East. This will always be a wealthy area. But your way of thinking will allow it to be turned into a trashy wealthy area. First a CVS, then 7-11s (whoops, they're already coming) then the precedent has ben set. We'll be seeing Quiznos and White Castle on every corner. The purpose of the Hamptons is to get away from all that kind of garbage and sprawl.
By Open Book (11), EH on Apr 3, 14 2:02 PM
There's a lot more at work than that which has made this place unaffordable. What you speak of is a drop in the bucket.

This ain't like Queens or Brooklyn with a regular population of a couple million or more. This is a microcosm, a Galapagos if you will. It's a cryin' greedy shame it could not be left unexploited, bucolic, and a whole lot more peaceful. "Call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye..."
By Mr. Z (11830), North Sea on Apr 3, 14 10:36 PM
There just isnt enough transient parking in BH to begin with much less adding another use where shoppers spend maybe 15 minutes in a store. This is going to grid lock an already jammed corner. The transient use of Starbucks, coupled with realtors coming and going, now add this on top of a 5 corner intersection is just a disaster. Not to mention tnat the corporate use destroys the down town affect BH. Cant wait to see that large CVS sign glowing red in the night. Very colonial....
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Apr 2, 14 6:36 AM
2 members liked this comment
The Press's editorial is spot on, and questions not only the CBI, but the entire Town Board for its apparent blindness to what he has been doing to eviscerate the code:

[quotation marks omitted]

It’s infuriating, but hardly surprising, to learn that Southampton Town’s chief building inspector, Michael Benincasa, has been quietly working with officials of CVS Caremark to help green light a proposal for a pharmacy and ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 4, 14 5:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
Highlights from the editorial [all direct quotes]:

-- He seems to have helped feel out soft places in the current zoning that CVS can exploit. It’s like an umpire filling out one team’s lineup card; after all, who knows the rules better?

-- It raises a chilling question: Just how much else is going on that nobody at the top is aware of? How many more surprises await us?

-- So it’s time to ask: Just who does the chief building inspector work for? Who ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 4, 14 5:13 AM
More highlighted quotes:

-- On behalf of its planning staff, the Town Board and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst owe an apology to members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee.

-- But if they didn’t know what Mr. Benincasa was doing, something is seriously wrong with the chain of command at Town Hall.

-- There’s a fine line between working with an applicant and working for an applicant—it’s about balance, and about understanding that while ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 4, 14 5:17 AM
Time for Mr. Benincasa to pack his bags, or be sent along on his way, in my personal opinion.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 4, 14 5:18 AM
1 member liked this comment